The Comfortable Life

The state of being called comfort is my enemy. It is a warm blanket wrapped around me, lulling me to sleep. It is a cocoon that keeps me separated from the world and all the dangers and glories of reality.

It is known by many names: Procrastination, Leisure, Apathy. I love and loathe it at the same time. Comfort is a middle ground where you do the exact same things in the exact same way. You simply exist, taking each day as it comes and never looking forward unless forced to do so. And the most interesting thing of all, is that even stressful, hectic, unhappy living can become comfortable if you let it.

I have to force myself to be uncomfortable in order to accomplish anything. Even to write, or work on school I can’t be in my apartment. The temptations of the comfort objects and activities around me is too great. Applying for college, or a new job is a huge step outside my comfort zone. Becoming a professional is an intimidating prospect. Am I doing it right? What if I do something wrong? What if I don’t appear competent to others? I would much rather sit in my comfortable retail job and simply exist.

Some people are never comfortable, and I envy them. They are always seeking out new and exciting things or traveling to exotic places. But I think these same people hold the key to breaking out of the comfort zone of my life. Surrounding yourself with exciting people who are active, imaginative, and supportive can lift you out of the funk of a comfortable life and propel you in a new direction.

Are the people in your life enablers of your apathy? Do you surround yourself with those that support your endeavors or that mock those who try to make more of themselves? Put yourself in positions of discomfort. Make friends with those who challenge and inspire you. And most importantly, get off your butt and go do something!!

The Inescapability of Judgement

To each their own. Let that be the motto of the age. Tolerance and acceptance are the catchwords of popular culture. I was born this way, baby! To judge another is considered a great sin in today’s world and yet it is an inescapable fact of life that our actions and reactions to others are based on judgments that we make about that person.

Is it bad to judge others? Is it wrong to fix an image of someone in your mind based on the way you perceive them? Both yes and no. If I may split hairs here, there is a difference between judging and passing judgment. Without judging we would be unable to make decisions. Judging happens whether we know it is or not. We instinctively know that we’d rather not be in a work group with this person. We know that we would not get along with these types of personalities. Judging informs us on our personal take on or interactions with others.

Passing judgement on the other hand, deals with someone’s overall quality as a human being. Engaging in this activity, we place ourselves in God’s position.

What is important is where and by what criteria our judgments take place. First impressions are made within seconds of meeting a person. Why does this occur? It certainly isn’t a conscious thought process where we weigh all the data available to us. This initial reaction to someone is based on observation, context, and our own inner assumptions and biases. Since this instinctual process is inescapable let us instead change its method of operation. Moved into the forefront of the mind, let us take our first impressions and reevaluate them based on facts, not assumptions. 

When you first meet someone, you don’t truly know anything about them. There are certain things that can be implied about their personality and circumstances, but these implications are speculative at best. Very few possess the mind or observational skills of Sherlock Holmes to be able to project these implications into concrete knowledge.  Our first criteria, therefore, is to judge based on actions not impressions. Watching whether someone’s actions match up with their words is one of the best ways to know that person’s character.

The second criteria is to determine the motives of those we interact with. We have all known people who complain for the sake of complaining, who seem rude or disinterested, or who seem changeable and strange. Before judging someone we should weigh actions and words in the context of their situations. Things like stress, a death in the family, or a distracted state of mind can color a person’s responses. We have all said things we regretted, or become emotional over a misunderstanding. Realize that this happens to others and you will being to develop a deeper understanding of those people. You will begin to see patterns of behavior, things that set people off. And after enough observation you should make your judgement.

The final thing to keep in mind when forming judgments is to recognize the differences that others possess. Recognition of the various interests, viewpoints, and personal quirks that others have is important to forming judgments about them. This may seem obvious, but how many times have we read flame wars on the internet, or been laughed at or looked down on for an opinion on a book or movie? Recognition and understanding of why these differences exist is an important step in the process of judgement. You don’t have to agree with, or even respect the differences that other people possess, but they should factor into the cognitive formulation of your opinion.

Judgement of others is not something we should pass off to stereotypes and first impressions. People are much more complex than that and have a wide variety of thoughts, actions, motives, ideals, and likes. Only by taking into account all of these aspects of a person’s life can we truly judge them. And even after the judgment is made, we should be open to reassessing it.

People judge each other. Its a cold, hard fact. It isn’t always fair and it isn’t always right. By making the process of judgment a conscious activity we can reduce stereotyping, see things from a wider perspective, and truly begin to understand other people. Which-in my opinion-is the first step in solving many of the problems that exist not only in our social lives, but in the whole world today.









A Great Machine

An ideal’s longevity is based not on its truth or nobility, but on its innate defense against corruption. This is an interesting attitude to have as it runs contrary to the belief that “truth will have its day” or that “love conquers all.” Every idea that man creates and pursues will have, built in to it, mechanisms that defend against the “corruption” of the idea. Corruption in this sense can simply be defined as the acknowledgment of other ideas that are contrary. As an example, the ideal of freedom is protected and fostered by the mechanisms of a free press, personal property, etc.
This idea of mechanisms designed to defend ideas does not require a judgment on whether the said ideas are true or even based in fact. It simply serves as a device to introduce the next part of my analogy. If those mechanisms can be thought of as gears which, in their turning, drive our daily actions, then each person’s mind as a whole can be thought of as a great machine which is, throughout the great journey of life, trying to find the best configuration of gears.
Society also functions this way. Each idea has its adherents, each religion its followers, each industry its own wants and needs. Every system in society has its own “gears” that support and drive it. In many cases the mechanisms that form around concepts are neutral, serving only to protect the idea they surround. But sometimes the mechanisms can interfere with or directly attack the mechanisms of another idea. For example, in older times arranged marriages were common (and still are in some areas of the world). These marriages existed as a mechanism to maintain the power of the family. Heads of households would make matches for their sons and daughters to improve bloodlines, consolidate power, gain wealth and prestige, etc. The mechanism of marriage defended the all importance of the family. This mechanism came into conflict with the growing idea of freedom of choice in love, the idea that you should be able to choose who you want to be espoused to.
What arises then is a system in which the ideals and beliefs that society as a whole subscribes to are in constant friction with each other’s defensive mechanisms, like two gears that don’t fit. This is distinctly apparent in today’s political and social debates. The two major political parties in America have ideas and values which are so different from one another that many times the outward expression of those values clash and grind together in a most distressing way. We each try and fit the gears together in a configuration where they complement each other in some places, or simply don’t encounter any resistance in other places. Sometimes certain gears are even discarded entirely in our vision of this “great machine”, when judged to be completely incompatible with any others.
When seen in this light all the conflict that arises between humans is the result of us trying to either uphold a mechanism or tear one down. Each of us has an idea, no matter how rough or abstract, of how we think the gears should fit together. To carry this analogy even further, some gears appear to our eyes to be inferior to others. Some gears are clearly flawed or if used would cause damage to others. This is “truth” and “falsehood.” What we see as truthful has a place, what we see as false does not. How we see those gears all depends on what purpose we think the greater machine ought to have.
So where does this leave us? When considering new ideas we should look at all the turning gears and effects that the idea has on the greater system. Does what we think we know really fit with our core beliefs? Do the policies we support and the daily actions we take mesh well with other ideas we see as truthful?
It is said that we should judge people not on their words but their actions. I think it should be the same with concepts, ideas, beliefs, and philosophies. Look at the fruit that these things produce. Look at the mechanisms that drive them. Do we protect certain ideas we have because that is simply what we have always done or is it because we have actually examined them for ourselves. Are they a good influence on the greater “machine” or do they produce a negative effect?
The questions that arise as we see the world as a product of the interaction of ideas is important. It allows us to strips away much of the emotional baggage that too often clogs good, intellectual thought and makes us look at the foundations of life on this planet. The foundations are key, because without a firm foundation what can we possibly build that will stand? Without a societal “machine” that is not constantly striving to become more efficient how can anything be achieved?